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Strategy Implementation Lessons Learned from 2021: What to watch for as you move into 2022 Ep#140

By Anthony Taylor - January 06, 2022

SME Strategy is a strategy consulting company that specializes in aligning teams around their vision, mission, values, goals and action plans. Learn more about how we can help align your team with our strategic planning and implementation services.


How ya doing everyone, Anthony Taylor here on a live episode of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm super excited because I wanted to share what I saw from this year in review. I've got a live stream going on YouTube. For those of you that follow us on YouTube, I thought it'd be cool to maybe potentially answer some questions. But as I'm recording this, it's December 22. So getting close to the holiday season, if you celebrate Christmas, and if you don't, well, you're probably coming to the end of your calendar year. Crazy year on all accounts, obviously, with everything that's going on with COVID. But, you know, just so many changes in work in life and leadership. And for us, as a company, and myself as a practitioner of strategic planning, of leadership and executive coaching, I learned a lot of things. And so I wanted to take this opportunity before I go on my own break, to share some of the reflections and they kind of came into three big categories.

So, one of them was work, all of the changes that happened with work and people over the past year from my perspective and our clients. What's happening with technology changes, because I think that technology through COVID had some big changes that I think are going to affect how we work, how we lead, how we grow businesses in 2020. And then also just wanted to share culturally and systemically what I see. And part of that was, you know, what we learned from developing our leadership programs, what we learned through doing a diversity and inclusion summit, and then also what we learned from working with our non-profit clients. So I wanted to share some stuff I've heard from the leaders that we're working with, and the leaders that we get to interview, then some of it is going to be on what I've seen in this past year.

So hopefully you enjoy this episode. Hopefully you enjoy the live stream, and just appreciate everybody that's been following along with us, you know, in 2021. And beyond that, it's been a very cool year We've got almost 18,000 subscribers on YouTube, get about 7000 plays a week on our podcast. So if you're one of those people, I just appreciate you and I really do try to connect with all of our listeners. So if you're watching this and you enjoy what we put in, be sure to just drop a note in the comments or in the chat just to say what's up because I think we're in 40 or 50 countries, something like that actively. And so it's just cool to see everybody around the world doing their thing in terms of strategy, leadership, and people.

So what's been going on in 2021?

Well, as we all know that COVID has challenged us in 2020, we had to move to remote work fairly quickly. And a lot of people thought, hey, you know, we're gonna be out the woods in a couple of months, or maybe a year. I thought it was gonna be a year and I was wrong. And I think that that 2020/2021 changed teams' dynamics a lot. I think in 2020, everybody was reactive to remote work. I think in 2021 people got a lot more comfortable with remote work. And mid 2021 I think things started getting back to normal, back to in-person and, and people managing more of a hybrid work style. As in some people move back into the office fully because they preferred it. Some people stayed virtually more because they preferred it. And I think it was slowly transitioning back to in person or more of a hybrid model. But really, I think as we get to this next variant, the hybrid workstyle and really having to get comfortable with the chaos and uncertainty is really going to take hold. I think, you know, a year ago, it was something that would pass. I think two years in it was something that we were learning to live with. And I think in year three, which is crazy that that's happening, everybody is going to have to incorporate it as part of their life. And as part of their work. And as part of kind of status quo. I could be wrong. But that's kind of how I see things right now.


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So how has that changed how teams do things?

Well, there's obviously the team dynamics of people moving in and out of new jobs, a large economy of self employed workers and people taking greater control of their own work. I think the market demands are changing. And I think that companies that are growing and have been able to manage this change successfully are needing more workers. And so their ability to attract people, their ability to support people and their ability to nurture people in this new world is going to be critical. It's going to take a whole different set of skills from a CEO and leadership team perspective. And it's going to take a whole new set of processes, from an HR perspective to support people who have come to get used to a certain model. We were doing a strategy session the other day, and the leadership team largely had never met each other in person. You know, some people have been with the company for 18 months and never been in the same room. So I think that's going to become more and more common. And the need/want/desire for these teams to connect with each other is going to be important. And I think that the time that they're going to be able to do it is going to be somewhat more sporadic. If we have to deal with these regular bumps and blips, I think that teams are going to have to be really intentional around how they work together and collaborate together. And I think that it's going to have to be more organized - how they work together and collaborate together. We talked about integrated work. So managing that hybrid work, managing the people that work remotely, managing the people that work in person. I think that's going to continue to be a challenge. And I think that HR and all leaders are going to have to be more adaptive to the needs of people versus kind of setting the structure and expecting people to fall into it. I think at the end of the day, it's all going to come to how you create a competitive advantage as an employer and as an organization. And I think the changes that are going to be made in 2022 and 2023 are going to provide quick impact and quick value.

People who aren't going to react to that fast enough (so if you don't do anything in 2022, you don't do anything in 2023), you might not feel it right away. But I think that if you're not culturally responsive, you're gonna really feel it in 2024. It's gonna be a lagging indicator, but I think your company is going to suffer if you're not proactive with it. And I think if you react to it too slow, you're really going to be in trouble. So that's kind of one of the things I see there.

And then what hasn't stopped is supply chain issues, disruptions. Weather is getting crazier. Supply chain issues for manufacturing I believe are starting to stabilize, but a lot of the clients that we've talked to, you know, they're still facing the effects of what happened in 2021, and 2020. So downstream, organizations are still hurting. So I think 2022 - being able to either re-engineer to manage expectations, to grapple with some of the disruption that their previous business had, and then to build in some business continuity, I think would be very, very wise. Phase one is kind of catch up and phase two is be able to build redundancy, being able to build structures and systems so that if this does happen again, the impacts will be less severe, and won't be a constraint to growth as much as possible. And then, you know, finally, it's uncertainty. I said it last year, I say it again, now that people were dealing with uncertainty, and I think the uncertainty is going to continue. I think we had a false sense of of certainty that life was going to go a certain way. Now as we look into at least in BC (where I am), shutdowns happening again. And some states, you know, nothing is happening. I think managing your people managing the uncertainty at the local, regional and state levels is going to be even more critical.
And I think being adaptive, being reactive, as well as proactive is going to be critical for organizations to be successful.

Clients needs are going to change quickly, your organization's needs are going to change quickly. So your team needs to be set up to deal with those things. And of course, you know, from a strategic planning perspective, your strategic plan is used to guide you. I still think that a three year vision is relevant and applicable, I still think reviewing your goals on yearly quarterly makes a lot of sense. But your team needs to be aware and embrace the dynamic change and dynamic nature business. So not be beholden to hey, this is what we said, but actually look at opportunities both internally for development and growth, but then externally with hey, what are your clients needs? What is the market need? Because I think the market is changing very, very quickly as well.

So that kind of leads me to the second point around technology. So in 2021, you know, we saw a lot of technological change, much of it driven by COVID, much of it driven by other opportunities. But some of the notable ones.. Podcasts blowing up. There's a podcast on pretty much everything including our Strategy & Leadership Podcast, subscribe if you haven't. YouTube is getting bigger and bigger. Tik Tok is getting bigger and bigger - just on its own, it might occur as just a social network. Why I think it's neat is the consumer driven personalization. We've talked about sales. And there's kind of the idea of b2b and b2c. I think all sales now are b2c. The customization that you can do for an individual - the ability to target, the ability for algorithms to pinpoint what people need. I think your organization needs to be aware of how much consumers on the individual level play in making individual decisions. It's why we're on YouTube, it's why I wanted to go live today to connect with you one-on-one, even if we're not necessarily chatting one-on-one. Everything that we're doing is hyper targeted to CEOs of growing companies. And I think the ability to really connect on that messaging through those type of platforms is going to be critical for brands, for organizations, not only for sales, but I think also recruiting but telling that brand story and highlighting what the great organizations do.

Talking from a strategic planning perspective, doing strategic planning meetings in person or virtually, or just any planning meetings. I think how organizations work through technology and leverage technology is going to be critical. If you think 10 years ago, when tools like Basecamp were coming out, or Trello, or Monday, that were all designed to leverage how people were working in office, I think that there's gonna be a growth of tools that are helping organizations collaborate, virtually. If you think of big conferences and summits that used to happen, all of those moving online, then trying to replicate that personalization, that experience, I think you're gonna see a lot more tools that are designed for mass collaboration. We use them when we do our virtual strategic planning sessions, I think it's going to continue, I think it's going to increase because there's an ROI for organizations and companies to work more effectively, both synchronously and asynchronously. And I think that's really cool.

And so one of the things that's come out is the metaverse. I don't know how the Metaverse is gonna play out. I'm fairly bullish on it. Because I think that there's a lot of cool opportunities from a globalization perspective and other markets - Asia, Africa, etc, that want to collaborate and catch up to North America. But I also think that from a safety perspective, from a cost perspective, being able to bridge that digital realm, I think, will be interesting to say the least. I don't think it's going to happen fully in 2022. But I think much like any and all social networks, there's going to be a an adaption phase. So if you're not following web 3 very much, it's basically how do we make a space for people to connect online. And then there is the crypto piece of it, as in like a digital economy. I think the digital economy piece is going to be very, very interesting to make finance move faster. You know, decentralization of finance, that kind of thing. But mainly, as it relates to strategy and leadership, I want to highlight that there's going to be a lot of digital tools for people to collaborate, to connect, to replicate the work that they would do in person. And I think three years ago, before COVID, nobody wanted to meet virtually unless they needed to. I think now because of hybrid and it's constraints, people are way more used to it and okay with doing Zoom meetings. Nobody zoomed out anymore, because this is kind of the world. And then I think if you adapt kind of Metaverse tools to replicate that in person experience, I think it'll be interesting to say the least in terms of what happens there.

And then the last is more of a societal trend, the stock market itself. It's really volatile these days. I'm interested to see how those small mid cap companies address that. I think that there's so much more information that people can get out there. So you know, being able to increase the core value, and then really being responsive to what the market needs. That's not really the space that we play in, but I think it's interesting how the visibility into those types of organizations has changed. And because of technological change, it's really important to be understanding it from a leadership team perspective, and recognizing what the market wants and demands.

And then the last, it's not really a technological trend. But in 2021, and 2020, you know, the talk of the DEI, inside the boardroom, people doing training on it, understanding what it is. At SME Strategy we led to our first Diversity & Inclusion Summit. It was a lot of work. But man, I learned so so much from going through that process. Diversity is not just obviously diversity for diversity sake, but the true meaning of diversity, why you do diversity, diversity of thought, diversity of experience, you know, diversity of people, making sure that you have equity and inclusion and all that. And following all the cool people on LinkedIn to talk about it. Really cool. How does that relate to you? Well, it's going to be asked for, it's going to be needed more. And I think that there's a value in doing it. So I'm always about the business sense of things as well as the kind of human being obligation piece. Because it's the right thing to do. It's why we did the summit, we believe it's the right thing to do. And I also believe that there's a strong business case for doing it. So look for that to be more, dare I say mainstream in 2022. Not because it's become popular per se, but because I think it's just what the market is going to want to need, especially people in there. And, you know, be good, do good. Like, don't be a jerk to people. So I think understanding diversity, inclusion and equity, and all of the ways that you aren't diverse, inclusive, or equitable. I know as much as I try to do good things, and do the right things, I learned a lot of ways how I have subconscious biases or blind spots as it relates to that. So it was a really great learning experience for myself. And I look forward to taking that into 2022. Also through studying it, through putting on a conference, through interviewing people about it, I have like a DEI lens on what I do. So when I see something that's not inclusive, I notice it more. And I'm in a position to actually say something and do something about it. Whereas I think last year, I wouldn't have even noticed that it wasn't inclusive, or it wasn't diverse. So I think that was the biggest value benefit I got from interviewing and hosting a diversity inclusion summit. Talking to experts in diversity inclusion - now I have a better lens to understand the challenges that others are facing. So a lot more empathy, a lot more understanding. And I just want to again, take an opportunity to shout out everybody that spoke at that summit, I am so grateful for all of you, you made my life better, and you made our listeners lives better.

And then for us, you know, in terms of how we did things.. So early 2020, everything that we were doing - strategic planning, facilitating strategic planning sessions, primarily in person, we had to shift virtually. I prefer it honestly, we get a lot more done. It's way more focused. It's less taxing from a bandwidth perspective. I think, from a individual development and growth, the ability to stagger that type of learning for an organization and for individuals. Instead of being eight hour days, so full, and then your brain breaks, having it be three hours once a week is ideal. So we've done that really, really well with for profit organizations, not for profit organizations in 2020 and 2021. We had our Non-profit Program, which was really cool. I think we put like 15 nonprofit organizations through it - coast to coast in Canada. BC to Halifax. And in the US, as far as like Florida to Hawaii, which is really cool. We're gonna be relaunching that in 2022, which is next year.

It's been really, really cool how the teams that we've been working with have recognized the growth that they've taken through our programs. So whether that's our Strategic Alignment program, which is our two days strategic planning or five weeks strategic planning virtually. Getting them to recognize what success looks like for them and get super clear on it. And to make decisions based on it, it's been really great. Building that program and solidifying the learning outcomes. And really transforming leadership teams, that's been awesome. And then we have our Implementation program, which we really doubled down on in 2021, to not only do the alignment piece, which is getting teams on the same page and clear about where they want to go and aligning around their one destination. But really partnering with them, to help them communicate, help them stay accountable, and to support the leadership component of that. So what that looks like is monthly and quarterly check ins, where we've developed our leadership curriculum. And it's been awesome seeing that growth from the companies in terms of how their communication has gone.

As a parallel, I've been interviewing on our podcasts a lot of people on leadership and structure and putting the structure in place for your team's development. I think it's going to be even more critical in 2022. Now here's why. 2020 there was disruption. And we were just like really super reactive in 2021. We had a new set of priorities that kept us busy. And we had external factors largely dictating what we were doing internally, or what you would be doing internally as a company in 2022. I think that it has stabilized a little bit. And it's going to be more challenging for your team to be able to discern what the priorities are, if you're in a high growth company, you've got tons of opportunities on the table. You've got tons of people challenges, and prioritizing your own growth and development is going to be critical. So as a CEO, being able to put the structure in place to keep developing your team is going to be needed, otherwise, it's going to be haphazard. The tyranny of the urgent, that tornado of the day-to-day is going to take over. And you're not going to make time for development, it's going to come on the back end. And I think changes are happening so quickly. Your business is growing so quickly, that if you don't make time to do it, you're going to be behind the organizations that do. Or the day-to-day operations and the day-to-day collaboration of your team is going to suffer. So it's not hey, we're building them for some kind of future outcome. It's training and developing your team right now for the challenges they're facing right now. So there's an immediate ROI, not a long term ROI. So whether you work with us at SME Strategy, whether you work with a different partner for your training and development, and for your leadership development, I say I highly recommend- it's going to be needed in 2022. And either you trust me now are you trust me later, it's going to happen.

And so I encourage you to look at your budgets for 2020, put leadership development in there, put accountability in there, it's going to make your jobs as CEOs a lot easier. Because it's already on your list of jobs that you need to do, and you're going to be too busy to do it. And if you're too busy to do it, and your HR person is too busy to do it, who's going to do it? It's going to fall to the wayside, and you're going to suffer.

So check out our implementation programs, check out our learning and development curriculum, put it as part of your strategy development, because otherwise, you're just going to be action focused, and you're not going to be growth focused. And I think that's the theme of 2022. I think by and large is going to be growth for people. So the ones that embrace it, but ones that are proactive in dealing with those growth opportunities. I think the ones that are holding on to how things could have been or should have been in 2020 and 2021, they're still going to be picking up the pieces behind you. So you've got choices, you got opportunities, and it depends on what kind of CEO and what kind of leader you want to be for your organization. 2022 I see a lot of growth, I see a lot of growth for the people that embrace growth. And I see a lot of challenges for the people that are going to try to get it back to the way it was. I don't think it's ever going to go back to the way it was. And so you've got a choice on which one of those you want to be coaching people. Oh, yeah, I think people are going to need a lot more coaching. Just on a personal level, not coaching for coaching sake. I think that there's just going to be so so so so so much change on a personal basis. That like if you think of personal life and business life or work like that, like integration, I think the separation if they weren't burnt out already from it, and if they weren't not I want to say struggling but if they didn't have a lot on their plate already, it's gonna get to a tipping point. So if they've dealt with it already in their control, great, if they haven't, and then they're being added on more and more responsibilities, I think it's going to be challenging. And most senior leaders are already too busy to make that time. And if you don't support those people, they're going to get burnt out, and then they're going to quit. So I think we haven't seen the last of the great resignation. I think how it's gonna play out is even the loyal people that are highly skilled, are going to say, Well, I actually really need to take care of myself now. And they're going to take the steps, they're going to really realize that they need to take control of their life, otherwise, their life is going to take control of them, and it's not going to go well.

Recommendations

I talked about it a little bit, what I think you should do in 2020, to focus on development of your people - put something in place to support the growth and development. I talked about the people and I talked about the work, and I talked about the integration. I think if you put the right systems in place to support the development, you're not only helping them develop their capacity to deal with work challenges, I think you're helping them develop the capacity to deal with personal challenges. And there's a huge ROI of that, it makes you a great employer. And I think it's gonna do really great things for your people. Why we have the great resignation is because people aren't being taken care of. So take care of your people, put a development process in place, put an accountability process in place, so that the needs of the urgent don't overlap. Or take over the long term benefits that you're trying to accomplish. I think some of the changes, especially the technological ones, especially if you're trying to do any diversity/inclusion things, especially any transformational things. They're the right things to do. But they're not always urgent, urgent. And so even if you have a long range view, if you're saying, hey, like 2022/2023/2024, there's big milestones and big steps you need to put in place, you got to keep your own selves accountable to it. Knowing what your short, medium and long range targets are. If you do that, I think you'll be successful. So build the right structure for the right timeline of your goals and objectives. Dealing with changes, I think, open communication channels, I think, a change management process in place, having your team being able to talk about changes so that there's less resistance, and you move through it faster. I think those are going to be two critical things. So support your people in dealing with change, whether that's internal change, which is almost certainly going to happen, whether it's external change, it's almost certainly going to happen or whether it's personal change, almost certainly going to happen. Having a framework or a methodology, to be able to compartmentalize each individual piece, and to be able to deal with it in a proactive way, I think is going to be critical. I talked to a guy named Ken today, Ken Falke. And what they teach is managing control. And so I think understanding what you are in control of understanding what you're not in control of, and what you can control is going to be critical for empowering your people moving forward.

And finally, people. At the heart of every business is people. You know, if we talk about company culture, or individual culture, we're just a group of individuals. And so the great businesses, the great CEOs, the great companies are going to be able to support their people and lead them to where they want to go on an individual basis. And it's not just like for the company. It's the individuals. And I think if you can make the most of your people's strengths, and you can attract new talent, you're going to be successful. A side note on talent, is there's people and then there's talent, and not just thinking about it from skills and aptitudes, but things that they are talented at doing. If you leverage the talent, to get to that next level, I think you're going to be very successful. And people want to go to a workplace where they're valued. So look at people, not just of their skills, but use their talents. I think if you use their talents, you're going to make the most of them and they're going to make the most of their careers. And you're going to have happy people at the end of the day.

I think that's really everything. I think 2022, like I said - theme is growth year. I think ones who are going to manage the growth successfully are going to do great because they're prepared. They're prepared and ready for growth, and they're ready for change. I think the ones that resist it, and who are slow to react are going to have a hard time and I think some companies have been able to weather the storm of 2020 and 2021. I think if you've had to weather it this far, it's going to get a lot more challenging. So if you've been resisting, making changes internally, I think now's the time, you got to put those bets and double down. Otherwise, I don't know if you're gonna be able to hold on that longer. Somebody asked me how I got my skin to be this clear, thank you for asking, I use a moisturizer, and I just have a high definition camera. But that's the beauty of podcasts that you don't have to see my face because I have a face for radio.

But anyways, it's always a pleasure to share in 2021, share on the podcast, share in videos. I'm really excited for our team, we're going to be putting out a lot more videos coming out in 2022. So be sure to check those out. We're going to do program overviews twice a month once for our Alignment program and once for our Implementation program. So if you want to learn more about our services, and what we do for people, we'll have regular like webinars on that, that you can like sit in on and learn about our programs. You know, we're gonna be doing more stakeholder engagement, more strategic planning, more alignment, and then more implementation programs. We're booking into March and April for 2022. And this is filmed in December. So last year, we were booking about two months out now we're booking about four months out, which is pretty crazy and very cool. So we're going to be looking for some great coaches and facilitators to join our team in the next year. And we're looking for some more partners that we can work with. And we say partners, you might think of them as clients. We want to work with great people that have big ambitions that want to grow. And so if that's you reach out to myself or somebody on our team to talk about how we can help you accomplish your One Destination and help you get to where you want to go.

At last, I just want to thank you all thank you for watching, I want to thank you for listening, I want to thank you for downloading tools. If you've enrolled in our strategic planning course, it's been a blast sharing it with you this year, we've done group calls this year for the first time, which has been really awesome learning how other practitioners that aren't affiliated with SME are leading their teams forward. And also got to learn like in a validating way, how cool our process is. I know that we created the process, I created the process with my team. And it's just really neat how we do it differently than everybody else and how that difference creates real results, we're reliably delivering great results every time. But it's way different than checking the box of strategic planning. So if you want to learn more about how we do that, be sure to check out our strategic planning course, or you know, talk to us for a consultation or conversation about how we can move your team forward.

So I think that's everything for today, folks. I - just again, appreciate you as the listener for sticking with us, for referring us to people that might be great fits for us to work with. And just happy to be able to share with you on on a weekly basis podcast book twice a week. And just all of the clients that we've had, thank you. I don't know if you know this as a client, if you're listening to this, you know, you are subsidizing our Non-profit Program, which helps us help organizations doing great in their community. So thank you for that. Thank you for believing in us. And really just thanks for being along with this ride. I think it's next year is going to be an exciting year. We're excited and happy to be part of it, and really looking forward to growing with all of you. So with that. I think that's everything I got today.

Thanks for watching. Thanks for subscribing. Thanks for listening. Thanks for reading. Thanks for referring. thanks for giving us money for our great work. And that's it. My name is Anthony Taylor. I'm the managing partner at SME Strategy. This has been a live recording of the Strategy & Leadership Podcast. If you know somebody who wants to get their team clear on One Destination and aligned for the future, be sure to reach out to us. Thanks for watching. Happy Holidays and we'll see you soon!

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